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Trauma is part and parcel of life; however, sometimes, it can be severe enough to impact every aspect, including the body and mind, negatively. For some people, it can manifest in emotional, physical, and psychological ways and can have deeper effects. Fortunately, there are many ways to relieve these impacts, one of them being trauma release exercises.
Also known as TRE, trauma release exercises help the body get out of the fight, flight or freeze mode that has been turned on for extended periods.  By doing so, these simple exercises can remove the adverse effects of consistent stress and trauma on both physical and mental health. Learning more about how to release trauma from the body through TREs is essential before incorporating these exercises in daily life for safety and better outcomes.
What are Trauma Release Exercises?
Trauma release exercises are a set of physical movements that aim to focus on deep muscle memory. The therapy includes seven core activities, such as muscle stretches, to activate a natural reflex of the mechanism of vibrations and shaking to release muscle tension while calming down the nervous system. With options to join as a group or individually, trauma release exercises are simple and feasible for people with varying levels of agility and fitness. Moreover, it can always be modified to suit physical boundaries as needed.
The combination of activities included in trauma release therapy can create a residual muscle vibration that crawls along the legs to other parts of the body. While this vibration can sometimes become overwhelming, it is possible to regulate it. Experts often advise taking rest periods after these exercises to give the body and mind a chance to acquire a more relaxed state.
Trauma release exercise aim to introduce a natural balance within the body to boost energy, improve sleep cycles, increase emotional resilience, and tackle muscle pain.  Most therapists avoid exploring the source of trauma during these sessions while focusing on benefits only. The recommended amount of therapy includes two to three sessions per week, each session lasting up to fifteen minutes. Remember that the benefits associated with trauma release exercises depend on how accurately they are performed in an environment where a person feels comfortable and secure.
Benefits of Trauma Release Exercises Explained
While trauma release exercises are primarily used to help people release their deeply held traumas, they can also bring plenty of other benefits. For instance, these exercises can lower anxiety, relieve stress, reduce feelings of being overwhelmed, and build resilience in a performer. Additionally, it also restores mental, emotional, and physical health while supporting it in the long run.
Other benefits of performing trauma release therapy include the following:
- Reduced anxiety and worry
- Improved sense of focus and confidence
- Healthier body and mind awareness
- Relief from certain inflammatory diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Release of deeply buried physical or emotional trauma
- Improvement in the symptoms of autoimmune diseases, such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and Crohn’s disease
- Greater flexibility
- Balanced mood with reduced feelings of fear, anger, rage, anxiety, and doubt while increased feelings of openness, generosity, and love
- Improved states of rest and sleep
- Higher levels of energy and endurance
- Better managed symptoms of PTSD
- Greater emotional resilience
- Better blood circulation
- Improvement in muscle pains and pains, including migraines
- Lesser conflicts in relationships
In addition to helping the body balance the nervous system, trauma-release exercises can also support the management of digestive problems, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and many other issues. Additionally, it can also achieve the said benefits in a much shorter time frame. The therapy sessions take place a few times per week, and each session lasts between ten to fifteen minutes, making it convenient for people to join it.
5 Trauma Healing Exercises To Try
Following are some easy trauma release exercises to try:
Stimulating nervous system
Position your feet so that they are shoulder-width apart from each other. Now gently shift weight to one side of the body and balance yourself on the outer edge of the foot of the side you are leaning toward and on the inner side of the opposite foot. Hold the position and take a few slow, deep breaths before leaning toward the other side of the body. Repeat the steps for two to three times on each side.
Fatiguing the calf muscles
Using a wall for support, shift your body weight onto one foot while bending the opposite knee. Rise using tiptoes and hold the position for a few seconds, followed by slowly lowering the heel back on the floor. Repeat the process until you feel 70 percent fatigued. Repeat the same steps using the other foot.
Fatiguing the quads and glutes
Using the wall as a support, assume a simple chair pose, bringing your weight to the heels. Maintain the position until you feel 70 percent fatigued, followed by shaking it out.
Stretching the inner thighs
Stand straight with feet wide apart. The distance between your feet should be greater than your shoulder width. In this position, fold the body forward using hips as hinges and allow the head to hang down while bending your knees. Take 3 deep breaths while keeping the head hanging in the center of the body. Next, shift the weight to one side of the body and align your head with the knee. Take another set of three deep breaths. Repeat the same on the other side of the body and in the center before stopping.
Fatiguing the upper thighs
Comfortably, sit up against a wall in a way that you can clearly see your toes. Slowly dip down the hips to the extent that you start feeling a burn in your upper thighs. Hold the position until the fatigue level reaches approximately 70 percent, followed by shaking it out.
Who can use somatic exercises to release trauma?
Trauma release therapy or exercises can benefit people living with various conditions, such as borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Among these mental health issues, these exercises are most commonly recommended for PTSD. However, remember that these exercises can also help people going through a tough time without any formal mental health diagnosis. For instance, experts apply it to people to help them move forward from domestic violence, bad breakups, active shooter situations, and sexual assaults.
Is it safe to perform trauma healing exercises?
In general, exercises and stretches that heal trauma are safe and effective, similar to other techniques, like tai chi and yoga. However, remember that they cannot be used as a substitute for any trauma recovery process of a psychological or medical nature. Certain people must also be careful about trying these trauma release exercises, such as those experiencing one or more of the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Severe depression
- Manic depressive disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
Pregnant females and people with complex health needs must check with a medical professional before trying these exercises.
Can I perform trauma release exercises at home?
While most types of trauma release exercises sound easy to perform at home, remember that some of them can invoke memories of past trauma. Hence, before trying them on your own, evaluate your capacity to self-regulate these emotions that typically surface in the form of an uncontrollable overwhelm. People with a history of profound trauma, both mental and physical, should ideally get a therapist to guide and support their exercise sessions while making all necessary adjustments and providing reassurance and support. If you still wish to go ahead and try trauma release exercises at home, ensure that you are fully informed about them and know how to perform them.
1 Lynning M, Svane C, Westergaard K, Bergien SO, Gunnersen SR, Skovgaard L. Tension and trauma releasing exercises for people with multiple sclerosis–An exploratory pilot study. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2021 Sep 1;11(5):383-9.
2 Berceli D, Salmon M, Bonifas R, Ndefo N. Effects of self-induced unclassified therapeutic tremors on quality of life among non-professional caregivers: A pilot study. Global advances in health and medicine. 2014 Sep;3(5):45-8.